Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Torture for Mommy

It's bad enough when your baby is sick. When the baby is sick and snurgles when he breathes and insists on sleeping draped across your head at night, and then also insists on throwing up all over you and the bed (instead of in the bowl you are holding for him), well..... The joys of sinus infections.

All I can say is it's a good thing we have access to the Priesthood and to antibiotics.

I guess we've had some sophomoric laughs over the last four days. For example, the kids were delighted and amazed when Dan blew a snot bubble as big as a quarter that we couldn't pop, even with a tissue.

Now, "speaking of potty humor" (as Caleb would say), for your more educated amusement, a clever request (probably a typo) from Craigslist, an ever-increasing source of editor-laughs: (This was in the wanted section) "Place to Buy a 17' (height) Toilet Cheep". Now that's the biggest toilet I've ever heard anyone want.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Addendum to Mormon Lit

So I've had some response to the Mormon Lit stuff--both from the blog and friends I've talked to.

The consistent response is: "But Deseret Book...." or "Covenant was just bought out by Deseret Book so..."

This shows a real, seriously ingrained isolationist culture among Mormons, in my mind.

I wouldn't have published with Covenant EVER. Their author contract was incredibly restrictive and manipulative for years and years--until the last few, and now they are a division of DB. They were on the "must be desperate" list in my mind--anyone who published with them must be desperate or they'd go elsewhere. DB is okay, from what I've heard. But they're a niche publisher. And that's where the isolationist tendencies show up.

The assumption among mormons is that if you write a book clean enough for mormons, or with a mormon character, you ONLY can publish for the Mormon Audiences (which aren't known for being very discriminating. They liked Sons of Provo....). So when I say, "Thriller where the lead character happens to be an LDS woman," everyone says, "Deseret Book Doesn't......"

I don't care what Deseret Book doesn't publish. I wasn't planning on working with them anyway. I think that just because I'm mormon, my book is clean, and the lead character is LDS--that doesn't mean only Mormons will like the book. Jews don't only publish with Jewish publishers. If a book has an Amish character, we don't only publish for Amish folk. A mormon is capable of writing a book with broad appeal, even if it is LDS-appropriate and has Mormon characters. Mormons don't have a corner on the "I don't like bed scenes and swearing" market, after all.

I want my "Mormon" lit to be published by Random House. I want to be able to buy it in Barnes and Noble and Borders--in Ohio or Wisconsin--not just in Utah and Idaho.

What's wrong with filling the world with good stuff that is accessible to other good people who don't happen to be Mormons? Why do we, as a culture, tend to keep all good things produced by us to ourselves and, conversely, assume that if nonmormons liked it, it must be dirty, even if it was made by mormons? This doesn't make sense. It's like the fact that my nurses at the OBGYN talk openly about "The Lord wanting me to only have 2 kids even if I intended to have more" but me being afraid to say "Jesus" in public. Nobody else is afraid of offending--why are we?

It's not just the gospel we seem afraid to share. It's everything virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy that we produce.

Likewise, this strange belief in "keeping things to ourselves" probably stifles a lot of good artists, musicians, and writers that are LDS. There is a real belief among members that somehow it is unholy to create art (in any form) that is not church-themed (meaning, of course, talks about testimonies being built). The idea seems to be that it's Bad to produce art unless it can be sold by Deseret Book. So we have LOTS of "here's how to live the gospel" and "inspirational" work--but where are the good clean fun movies that don't have to do with LDS dating and sports rituals?

I have no issues with the amount of stuff produced by mormons, marketed to mormons, and consumed exclusively by mormons. I sometimes have issues with the quality, and I frequently have questions about the lines between making heartfelt testimony available to more people (inspiring them to righteous acts) and priestcraft (selling the "inspiration").

My main question lately is not "Where are the Mormon artists?", although that is an issue. My main "Issue" is "Where are the works produced by members that are mormon-appropriate and mormon-themed but for a mass audience?" Potraying mormon ideals and themes shouldn't automatically make a book only appropriate for a niche audience. In fact, it seems like we'd want to portray outselves accurately to the world. Otherwise, people's perceptions and exposure to Mormons will continue to be from non-mormon sources.

So that's why I'm not interested in Deseret Book. It has nothing to do with them. It's just that I, for one, want Maggie, my CIA mommy, to be seen by people of all faiths who just want good, clean, non-preachy thriller. And DB is a niche publisher.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Kids are smart

Caleb informed me today that sometimes he talks in cursive.

He told me the other day that he wouldn't go to a public first grade because they won't let him teach the classes.

Today Anda was making up a song (a common occurance), a rock song with lyrics that went, "No matter what I love you." When she hit a particularly high note, Caleb said, "That's just the note I wanted you to sing next!"

See, they're clever! Also reading while I write this.....

Thursday, January 25, 2007


First, another funny craigslist headline: "have you been mean to convert your old home videos to dvd?"

I went to bed one night, later than usual (ie the crack of dawn instead of 3:00 am), and thought, "If my life were a fantasy novel....." before I fell asleep. The thought developed during the night, and I woke up thinking that the mommy was the princess raised by commoners, now sent off into the world to find the Castle of the King where she belongs, required to bring some of her own little princes and princesses along for the journey. And bedtime is thus: The evil wizard says, "I know you are tired from your day's travels, and you may now start toward bed. But before you can sleep, you must complete these ten impossible challenges." And he always throws in an extra one or two just after you've brushed the crumbs out of your bed (last night it was a whole muffin, tucked way down by my feet) but before you go to sleep. The next night, the challenges are similar, but, mysteriously, just as hard to accomplish.

I have learned a few things with three-and-a-half kidlets hovering around. For example:

No matter how hard you try to prevent it, someone eventually will drink out of the toilet. And it won't kill them.

Toothpaste gets permanent marker off smooth surfaces--coat it on thick and let it sit for 10 minutes, and the marker wipes off. Doesn't work as well on textured surfaces, though.

Alcohol takes permanent marker off walls. It also takes paint off walls.

Doctors know a lot, but not always more than a mother's instincts. Even great doctors are sometimes wrong.

No matter how late church is, it is next to impossible to get there on time.

Sneezing at the table is always messy.

The best high chair/table/eating area for a sitting baby is the open dishwasher door. It washes itself.

Just plan for someone to spill something at each meal. (Why doesn't someone make a terrycloth tablecloth? Or, even better, an absorbent disposable tablecloth? One that somehow attaches to the table--tape? Elastic?--so that nobody pulls it off or shifts it around. Yet another use for worn bath towels.....)

Sharp tools are magnets for one year olds.

No matter how many tape measures/pairs of scissors/pens you have, you will only be able to find them when you DON'T need them.

When you DO find the tape measures/pairs of scissors/pens, there will always be one less than you need for everyone to join in and help.

There is a reason thousands of mothers have rocked their babies to sleep for thousands of years--and gotten up in the night with them.

Babies have an irritating cry for a reason, and it's not to irritate you into anger or neglect.

Kids prefer permanent markers. I don't know why. You'd think the smell would dissuade them...

You can make someone go to bed. You can't make them sleep.

Instead of a rug on the floor by the sink, use a large beach towel. Then you have something ready to clean up spills all over the kitchen that's already on the floor, and it's easy to wash and replace.

Always look into the oven/toilet/toaster/sink/your bed/etc. before you use it. You never know what will be there.

You can't watch everyone all the time, so you have to learn to trust your kids.

If you never fill your own needs, you can't fill theirs, either.

If you want some time without someone touching you or demanding your attention, attend to the kid's needs when they ask, and they won't be so clingy. The more you push them away, the more demanding they are. Then go to the library and get them a few videos, put the VCR in a different room, and enjoy your alone time--it will be short.

One baby is less work than two. One kid is MORE work than two. Two kids is more work than three. At some point this breaks down, I'm sure, but at least they entertain each other!

If you feed them, they will be happy.

Your environment exists to serve you. Stop serving it instead.

If you want your kids to get a testimony, read the Book of Mormon to them.

The second most important tool a mommy has is the ability to look at a situation and figure out a solution--not based on what other people do, what magazines say, what her mother did, or anything else.

The first most important tool is the Spirit.

Mommy's job is not decorating, picking up clutter, making the house pretty for everyone else, or "measuring up." Mommy's job is to nurture, which means to look after the children's mental, emotional, and physical health in a way that helps them grow. In other words, feed, clothe, and teach. Everything else is extraneous.

And Most of All, I've learned that being a mommy is worth far more than any career or hobby I gave up to have kids.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


First, it was a funny day for postings on Craigslist Denver. Someone advertised for a "small office helper." Someone else was "looking for a bar--$150 (ill pick up)"

We've come headlong into the realities of our individual disabilities lately. I remembered that not long ago I was pondering the nature of fibromyalgia and came up with a story idea I may never use. The thing that prompted it is that people with fibromyalgia seem to have a bizarre relationship with energy. I am not one of those people who believe in the holistic natural healing "energy adjustment" stuff. This is something different. People with fibro seem to be "energy suckers". For example, many report that they wear out 5-year watch batteries in one year--repeatedly (I do!). And that street lights go out when they come near (I know this happens to everyone--but not 10 or 20 times a month!). And yet they often lack the energy to function themselves. It's bizarre. Late scientific research indicates people with fibro have an inability to process ATP properly, which is related to energy production in the body.

So, where that all went was, "In fiction, I could take it one step further." Say, we have a world where people with fibro have the ability to manipulate energy with superhero powers--if they take the time to learn how. BUT, like real fibro, they are cursed with near-constant pain in their lives, and challenges that make it hard to be part of society. The idea expanded to other disabilities, too. What if we had a world where anyone could become a superhero by learning to use their gifts to serve the world, but they had to deal with the fact that they had severe disabilities that would counter their efforts, and they had to work around them or just end up "normal people" forever.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's not Science Fiction. That's reality. And I write fiction, so I never wrote the story and probably never will.

But we've run into that headlong this week--sometimes it seems that the harder we try to use our gifts to make people happy, the harder our disabilities work to stand in the way. The easy solution: give up and be mediocre but not forced to constantly climb mountains.

Neither of us is inclined to taking the easy path, I guess.

So I suppose to go beyond "person" and turn into "superhero," the challenge is to use your gifts, work with and around your disabilities, and try to make the path a little easier for whoever comes after you, so that you don't end up atop the mountains alone.

Dad is a superhero.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Melody Becomes a HomeBody

I've been thinking it for a month, but when Tim came home the other day and said, "We're not on the road!" in a voice of relief, I started verbalizing my joy at becoming a normal family again.

It's not that being on the road as a lifestyle was terrible.

It's just that I never want to do it again.

Here is why living on the road was hard:

--You don't get to sleep. The beds in hotels stink. I had to share with Tim AND one kid (in a queen bed....). Plus, other performers (usually drunk) make noise until later at night than we go to bed (can you believe it?!), and then the maids make noise starting at about 8:00 am. Did you know that maids yell up and down the halls to each other after you leave the hotel? And that they open all the doors to the empty rooms and turn the TVs on to the same music station so they can work to music? No sleep.

--Food? What's food? Finding things to eat when you are living in a hotel room is hard. If you have a kitchenette, you still can't store enough food for a family of five for one day, and then you're pretty much limited to things you can fix in the microwave one portion at a time. Look through the freezer section of your grocery store some time and think about it. Carbs and highly processed food. Not good for health, weight, or ADD. And this is when it's good. When there is no kitchenette, you're limited to what comes out of a can or a box and can be heated in a pan on a hotplate that you can't let the hotel discover you have. Also not healthy or satisfying. And feeding kids (ADD kids, no less) this way? Not good.

Of course, you can go to fast food places and buy from the dollar menu. My view on that now: the idea of eating another cheap hamburger or fries LITERALLY makes me sick to my stomach.

--It's hard to stay clean. Hard to bathe kids. Hard to wash dishes. Hard to do laundry. Nothing is convenient. And just try to keep three kids' worth of trash in one of those tiny hotel garbage cans....

--Isolation. We traveled as a family and with the band, but it's an isolating life. Nobody wants to take the effort to get to know you except as a novelty (or bragging point--"I met ___ musician!"), even if you make an effort to get to know them. There are two reasons for this: musicians have a pretty bad reputation; and you're moving on in a couple of days. Nobody wants to commit the energy to get to know you if there is no permanence in it. The church members were nice, when we could meet them, but it was hard to find them.

For the family of the band, it's even more isolating. The band takes the car, and the family is stuck in the hotel room or wherever they can go on foot. Plus, tour season is hot summer, so arranging the car and going out is NOT easy. Not with three kids under five, anyway.

In addition to not being surrounded by people you are familiar with, you don't have resources you expect to. Like doctors. Musicians don't make enough for insurance, let alone nationwide insurance plans that work in all states. And it doesn't really matter because even if a doctor IS taking new patients, they are not taking transient patients. So if you get sick or hurt, you're pretty much limited to emergency room visits (costly) or welfare clinics (long waits for mediocre to poor care--and the welfare clinics are hard to find. They aren't listed in the phone book as "welfare clinic"). And it's not just doctors. It's the whole community around you that you don't even think about having (banks? libraries? internet access? movie theaters?)--but nomadic folk like musicians lack.

--You get sick. Oh boy did we get sick this summer. When we're at home, we rarely get sick. Maybe a cold every once in a while (rarely even serious ones), or a stomach virus. This summer the kids got chicken pox, pinkeye, head-to-toe eczema (due to Utah's water we found out today), viral meningitis, colds, stomach viruses, allergies to antibiotics, and I don't remember what else. Fortunately, we HAVE a pediatrician in Utah who was willing to see us still, and give us a "self-pay" break. Still--no mother wants all those serious childhood illnesses to go through all three kids in their entire childhoods. We had them all in 8 weeks.

--Constant displacement makes growth and development hard for kids. Kids don't really learn and grow if they have to think about where they are constantly. So, while we learned geography and about things you see at fairs, and other useful knowledge, the real Growth was stunted.

--There's nothing to do. Really. It seems like there should be. But we ended up watching TV and going to fairs. Boring. And it got to be a little much when my four-year-old knew the first names of all the hosts of all the daytime shows on the Discovery Channel. And I was bored--I can't write when we travel.

This is actually heavily influenced by the next one...

--Even "Family friendly" places (hotels, fairs, restaurants) are unprepared for THREE kids age 4, 3, and 9 months. So we lived in constant fear that we were bugging people. And certainly healthy kid stuff (jumping, running, laughing, singing) are NOT allowed--leaving me either policing or entertaining (and not writing...) and the kids with nothing to do.

--For all of our effort, we didn't get Tim anyway. We were there, but fairs work you 3 shows a day every day, which amounts to about 10 hours a day of not being able to leave fair grounds. And when Tim DID get to come "home", he was either too exhausted or too busy catching up on the work that runs the business to really "Be" with us.

--For all that work and sacrifice, we still were living at a wage 80% below poverty level and qualified for Colorado Medicaid without any trouble--Even making $500 more per month for those months than we did usually. And the extra expenses of travelling (everything costs more, even the performer's time) cut back the earnings significantly.

--I hate living with the band. I hate walking out of my hotel room at 3:00 am to get ice and finding one of OUR band members sitting in the hall in his garments. I don't need to see that. I hate living with their schedules (why do they always check out of a hotel late but get to the next place before us?!). I hate having to be nice to them if I've had a bad day or if I have PMS, and feeling guilty if I only cook enough for my family or don't want them to come over during the one hour we get Tim. And they, I'm sure, think I am equally hard to live with.

--You can't be fully active in the church (or community). You can't have a calling. You can't have (or be) visiting or home teachers. You can't serve the poor. You can't help people move. And when you come back, you are no longer an integral part of the ward. They've moved on without you, and you are an outsider once again. What's more, they never know when you will be around and when you won't, so they assume you're always gone, and everyone forgets to tell you about Ward Parties and stuff.

I guess what it boils down to is there is a rhythm to life that you are unaware of until you have to leave it. And then when you get home to, as Desi Brown puts it, "Your cold and dusty house," it isn't home anymore. You can't find anything, you have no food (you can't leave a house with food in it unless you WANT mice), and it's all very foreign. It's that rhythm that we missed.

Now I completely understand why Roma culture developed the way it did. In order to be happy as a nomadic people, you would have to ALWAYS live out of your gypsy wagon (own a motorhome today, which is way more expensive than driving a car and staying in hotels every night), and you would have to travel in a large group of some kind. This would create a solidarity--and a unique culture--that made it so that the rhythm of life came with you and it didn't matter where you landed. I can see why the gypsies turned to each other--we, as musicians, were no more trusted than gypsies. And I understand. Most musicians leave a town with a few richer drug dealers, a few more destroyed hotel rooms, and a couple of pregnant teenage girls. (In fact, I even had to tell several local girls to obey their parents and not associate with "our guys" any more because, "on Sunday we're going to pack up and drive away, and you'll never see him again." And we're nice!)

So the gypsies, in order to survive their careers, took the community with them and developed ways of eating, dealing with sickness, sleeping, etc. that worked for them and that were consistent. They had their own language, their own 'Ways'--and that made the culture work.

And that's what I think happens when a people is forced to be nomadic. To survive, they develop their own culture and associations.

Maybe that's why the early Mormons had to endure so much rejection and forced wandering. It took a group of fully culturally integrated people and isolated them, creating in one generation a unique culture that otherwise might have taken decades to form, if it ever did. But for the Lord to get what he wanted out of the people, they had to leave the "old ways" COMPLETELY behind--and being forced to be nomadic DOES that. So they very quickly developed their own ways of talking, eating, teaching, governing, etc. Then, when the immigrant saints started pouring into Salt Lake City at the last part of the 19th century, there was an established, unique culture for them to be integrated into, instead of a mishmash of everyone's old traditions getting mixed up into something new and man-made. He did it to the Jews, too--back in Moses's time.

Just something to think about.

Mormons weren't made to be gypsies. And they still aren't.

Draft of the "hook" for my next novel

I've been reading agent Jenny Rappaport's blog regularly for a couple of months now. Today she posted ( and found her request for literature that has normal-sized women as heroines. She, like me, went from size 4 (okay, I was a size 5) in high school to plump as a real woman. I almost emailed her the hook for my next novel, but it doesn't mention that the heroine is a regular-sized mommy now (had 3 kids, didn't stay skinny, just like me), so I didn't. The book isn't finished anyway, and the cardinal rule for contacting an agent is "Don't bother unless the material is ready". Then I checked my email and found she had requested a partial on the manuscript of my last novel! Oh joy and elation! Someone is interested again!

So I thought I'd post the hook here, since it's written, and see if having it out there helps me get the manuscript written. I think about it all the time; I just can't seem to write the darn thing.

What do you think? Does it make you want to read the book?

Maggie and the Mad Scientist

Five years ago, Maggie March had her first kill. Five years ago, Maggie was one of the up-and-coming super spies for the US. Five years ago, she was one of only two agents to face the Tenth Intelligence, a super-secret organization bent on destroying the US, and escape with her life—and the only one to escape with information. Five years ago, Maggie March was an international hero.

And five years ago, Maggie March walked away from it all to have a family.

Five years later, Maggie, now a fairly typical Mormon housewife, is visiting Las Vegas with her husband, a singing magician, and their three children. While they are in the new Mad Scientist Museum and Casino, the place is taken over by Charles DeLancy Curie II, the son of a mad scientist who wants his father’s bones taken off display and returned to his family. Suddenly finding her family stuck in a sealed building, Maggie discovers that the hired thugs Curie thinks he’s controlling are actually members of the Tenth Intelligence, and she’s the CIA’s only person inside the building.

Desperate to get her family out, Maggie agrees to come out of retirement to help the CIA stop Curie and find out why the Tenth Intelligence is in Vegas and what they plan to do.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Great Mormon Novel

Musing over many things lately.

On the writing side of things, I was getting very discouraged because I keep getting rejections, and I haven't looked at my novel for a while so I'm not sure it's any good anyway, and I just couldn't get excited and into writing the next novel. So I stopped to re-evaluate, and realized that I need to just go back to writing what I feel like writing, telling my stories for me with no other audience in mind, and stop worrying about selling them. That's what the editing phase is for. Then I realized that I've been only querying agents who specialize in fantasy, but that is probably the wrong approach because, while the "Poison Spindle Problem" could be classified as fantasy, the next two novels I am working on are definitively NOT fantasy. One is a Western, and the other is a Thriller (complete with terrorists and plots to destroy Las Vegas). So getting a Sci-fi/Fantasy agent for my career would be a mistake--most of what I'm going to write is not sci-fi or fantasy. So I got on the agents search website and looked up agents that do both fantasy and thrillers. Only 12 came up. Six of them already sent rejection letters. One of the other twelve actually requested my stuff and we lost the packet before mailing it--and then the whole job thing and the whole Christmas thing and the whole get home thing came up, and I haven't thought about it since then. I couldn't find any info online that made me excited about her, anyway.

So today I decided to rethink, and I looked her up online again and realized that last time I misspelled her last name. So the only info I got about her came from people who also misspelled her last name. This time, spelling her name right, I found out that she is the managing agent of an agency that was established in 1928 and is the agency for such well-known people as Mary Higgins Clark and the estate of John Steinbeck. Had I found out this info before I sent the query, it never would have gone out because she's not listed on many sites as specializing in the areas I think I write. But she does specialize in "Women's Fiction," which could include what I write, I think. Doesn't matter--she wanted to see more. So tonight I wrote I nice letter apologizing for the delay and sent her what she asked for. Why WOULDN'T I want to work with one of the top agents at one of the top agencies?

She'll probably say no, too (as have three of the top agencies after looking at my stuff), but it's flattering that she wanted to see more!

So, with that encouragement, I have been once again pondering that recurring question that comes up among intellectual Mormon writers: Is there, and will there ever be, "The Great Mormon Novel"? It is parallel to the "Great American Novel" debate that will never be settled. It always comes up among my writing friends, who are all sure that Mormons ought to be writing great literature but they aren't for some reason and why is that? Is it that "Everyone who is good never suffers" belief that seems to permeate the church? Or the "Righteousness is rewarded with financial gain" belief? Or that Mormon men and women are too busy to write? Or too out of touch with struggles? Or is it that the way we solve problems is something we don't want to splash around in a "literary" novel? Are we afraid people won't understand so we just don't talk? Are Mormons afraid of real honesty with themselves? And why is it that everyone who seems to be writing Mormon Literary Fiction is apostate? And why do non-apostates either write "inspirational" literature, or gospel commentary, or "relationship" books?

And then, after all those questions, finally the most pertinent questions to the debate surface: What exactly is a "great" novel, and what exactly is a "mormon" novel? Those two things must be defined in order determine which book most closely fits the classification. And those things are much harder to define than they seem.

Tim says the "Great Mormon Novel" has been written. By Orson Scott Card. And it's called "Lost Boys." He says it is a fabulous picture of what it means to be Mormon, and how our culture works, both in pleasant times and under stress, and all the foibles and strenghts of the culture. And, using the Great American Novel debate as a paradigm, he says that fits most closely with what people are looking for.

But Mormons reject it because it deals with touchy issues that Mormons like to pretend don't exist (priesthood holders who are pedophiles?). And because Card SWEARS in his book.

So can the "Great Mormon Novel" be one that is rejected by Mormons for not following the standards they have set? (I personally like Card's work. He is a fabulous writer).

I always come from the debates saying, "Fine. I'll write the Great Mormon Novel." And then I think about it more clearly and say, "Oh, yeah. The Great anything Novel has to be literary fiction, and I don't read or write that kind of crap." And why is it that so many of the members I know who like "Literary Fiction" don't actually believe in the church? Is the key to the whole issue?

But it always leads to a second debate for me, which I DON'T bring up with my Intellectual friends. That is: Where is all the Escapist fiction written by Mormons to Mormon standards? Mormons balk at reading works by Mormons that has swearing or graphic sex in it (nobody seems to mention violence, but that bothers me a lot), but they want to read escapist fiction, so they read the same stuff (swearing, violence, sex) written by non-members. So if people are going to read for fun anyway, why aren't we producing stuff that's fun to read and Clean--to our standards?

You are countering, Yes, but there's Heimerdinger. And The Work and The Glory. And Charly. Yes. But three is not enough. And not everyone likes historical fiction and romance.

And why not write stuff that is "Mormon", and Mormon appropriate, but also accessible to a general audience? There are a few who are doing this--and this is what I think Mormon writers should be doing. Anne Perry does it. Card does (although there is that swearing issue). And there are a couple of others (Mom reads a series where the protagonist is a detective who also is a member, I assume written by a member).

And this seems to be the real issue. Far more important than the "Great Mormon Novel" issue. Why are we not flooding the world with good, edifying literature (and art, and film), that tells great, fun stories that are exciting, entertaining, and righteous? I personally know several authors (Jon included) who have the talent and the ideas. And Satan is doing his part to flood the earth with trash. So why not counter, and fill the earth with great fun stuff? They can even be Mormon stories, but isn't it time to stop excluding the rest of the world from our art and make great stuff that everyone can enjoy? Surely we can do that without denying who and what we are, and without making a spectacle of sacred things....

Now that is a challenge I think I can take up.

Do you believe in magic?

Last summer we ended up touring with a magician named Tim Gabrielson. His wife was another Rebecca, and his "thing" is comedy magic, so we all hit it off really fast. Fabulous guy. We caught his very funny show at least twice, and Caleb was hooked. Now he wants to be a magician when he grows up (all the kids get a kick out of the similarity between the words "magician" and "musician"). He told Tim G. that and Mr. Gabrielson gave Caleb a kit to teach him how to palm a squishy ball--with the instructions and materials.

Jon was really into magic when he was young, too, and I played "assistant" a lot. It was really fun for both of us. I only learned how to do one trick on my own, though--palming a small object. So I tried to show Caleb how the trick worked. Only I couldn't get the squishy ball palmed right, so I used a coin, like Jon showed me. Caleb was impressed. I had to repeat the trick a lot, "blowing" the coin out of my hand and into the air, and then pulling it out of their ears or heads or pockets. Then I told him maybe Uncle Jon would teach him how.

So when we went to Utah in December, Caleb asked Jon. And Jon showed him exactly how the trick worked--and all four children there still believed that Jon was magically making the coin disappear and reappear in their ears or whatever.

So just a couple of days ago, I showed Caleb again how the trick is done, and explained it, and didn't try to hide it at all, and he STILL believed that if I would just blow on it, then the toy would really disappear. Magically.

No matter how much we explained, showed, illustrated, and revealed the trick and technique, Caleb refused to believe in any but the most magical reasoning. We've never really done the Santa thing (never really NOT done it either--we just have avoided the whole issue), and Caleb believes in Santa, too. It's amazing. Something in him really WANTS magic to be real, so much so that no other reasoning will suffice. I understand the feeling. That's a major reason why I write. When I write, I get to live in world where not only does magic exist, I get to set the terms for it and then play with them. I get to continue to "Play", the same way Jon and I did when we were kids--doing magic, chasing bad guys, and making up stories that we could live to our heart's content.

I suppose I could go into all kinds of analysis about belief versus science versus reality, and people (in all camps) just seeing what they want to believe.

But I won't. I don't have the energy.

Daniel seems to have caught the bug, too, though. Today he put a toy barn on my lap and hid a train in it. Then he signed to me, "Where is it?" I said, "Where is it?" back to him, and he immediately blew on the place he hid it and then, with a flourish and mock surprise on his face, he produced the little toy train. I guess Daniel understood the reality of it better than his siblings.....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Kids are Still Funny

Tim is applying for a job as an administrative assistant for a booking agency. One application down.

The kids have been funny lately. Last night Anda walked by with a big lump in her jammies. Using my mother's intuition, I asked, "Is Baby Kitty in your jammies?" Anda said, "Yes. I'm a car tonight, and cars have passengers." A few minutes later, Caleb walked by with several lumps in his jammies. I didn't ask. He was probably being a van.

Monday, January 08, 2007

mishmash of musings

I read Jon's blog ( and it made me cry--lots of travails just trying to get home, and nothing working the way they intended it to, despite their best efforts to prevent problems, be aware of issues, and plan ahead. It just seemed like their entire trip was representative of life in general. Aren't we all on this journey, here for the people instead of for the destinations or the adventures, and it NEVER goes the way we plan? But if we get home with our families intact, it's all okay.

I've been watching Dan lately and realized once again that some talents "show" well, and some show up early (like Caleb's verbal skills) and make your kid look like a genius (and therefore you a good mother), and some don't. And the ones that don't are often the most important ones. For example, Daniel seems to have a gift for tuning in to what people need and providing it the best he can. Just yesterday, Tim lay down on the couch for a nap after church (and after an unusually bad night--he got 4 hours of sleep and I got about 3). When Tim had fallen asleep, little Daniel toddled over with his arms full of the biggest, softest blanket he could carry. He tucked it all over Tim's head and shoulders (that's the part that's "Daddy", right?), and then gave Tim a kiss and walked away. Anda fixed the blanket so Tim could breathe, and Dan, noticing his work had been adjusted, went back and tucked the blanket all around close to Tim and kissed him again. Then, for the next 2 hours until he himself fell asleep, he wandered back over to Tim every ten or fifteen minutes and checked on him, kissed him, and then went back to his games.

That's a lot of nurturing coming from a 15 month old, who usually think first of themselves and then of how you can help them. It's a gift--that will never show well but will bless countless lives.

On the news front, we've finally honed in more closely on what kind of career Tim wants. I think Tim wants to be what is alternately labeled an "Artistic Director" or "Music Director." If you're dealing with film, TV, or video, the same job is "Music Supervisor", and if you're into software design, the job is called "Sound Designer," but it's all about the same job. Technically, an "Artistic Director" is the person who decides what shows to do and who will direct them for arts that are presented in theaters, like opera, drama, and dance; a "Music Director" is the conductor of the orchestra or the person who is responsible for rehearsing the music of a play. In general use, however, all the terms become interchangeable. Essentially, the "Artistic/Music Director" determines everything art-related about a performance, including what the group will wear, what they will look like, what kind of movement there will be (choreography? by whom?), and what music will be performed and how it will be performed. The Artistic Director is then responsible for rehearsing the group and conducting during performances. They also "produce" all recordings the groups makes, sitting in the studio and supervising, giving the performers and audio engineers instructions as they go. The Artistic Director is the one with the "vision" of what the group really is, and the one responsible for making it happen.

Really, it's the same job that used to be called "Conductor," but conductors wanted people to know they do so much more than just wave their arms during a concert, so the term/terms were invented in the 1950s to express what the job is really about. We've been accused of making this all up before, but it's a legitimate job in the classical music world. And Tim wants it. And he specifically wants to work with all aspects of vocal music (choirs, a cappella groups, etc).

People actually hire other people to do this. It's not a "Far Out There" kind of job, like saying, "I want to be the next Mel Gibson." But it is a highly competetive job, and to get the really good positions, you have to have a DMA (musical equivalent of a PhD). Full-time jobs take a MM (Masters of Music), which is what Tim is working on. The rest of the people have to have experience (he does) and luck to get a part-time position, or a couple of part-time positions. This is what we're praying for, searching for, waiting for. There's actually a position open not far from here, but it's for an orchestra instead of a choral group, and Tim doesn't have the qualifications to conduct a youth symphony orchestra, I don't think.

Amazingly, you have to have a huge amount of musical talent in multiple areas to do this kind of job. The kind of broad array of experience nobody in their right mind collects. The kind of broad experience and talent Tim has. So he's on the right track. We're just waiting for the jobs to show up and pondering what we need to do to MAKE the jobs.

Tim's ultimate goal is to work in a University as a professor, do Artist/Music consulting on the side, keep performing (how could he not?!), and to take choral music to "disadvantaged populations"--prisoners, families in shelters (women's shelters or homeless shelters), children who are too poor for traditional "Arts" education, disabled people, etc. There are hundreds of programs that take choirs to these populations, but almost none that allow the disadvanted to make the art themselves--and that's what Tim wants to do. Not just take a choir of college kids into the prison to sing at Christmas. He wants the choir to be made up of prisoners.

But for now? We'll take whatever we can get, I think. Let us know if you hear of anything.....

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Long time no see

I've mentally written three or four blog posts but couldn't log in to blogger for a week. So you'll have to miss them.

So this is mostly news.

I revised my novel again. This time it's really done. ;) I actually took out two characters, Sirena and Fina--I'll use them in a sequel some day because I still like them and the interplay between two bad guys who think they're good but in opposition to one another. I also like the idea of someone who thinks they are in charge but are really being manipulated extensively by the "conquered" one. Anyway, they didn't really add to this novel--I cut 5000 words and only had to write two sentences to replace it and sew up the seams. That says, "Not vital info here." So now we're getting close to the "acceptable" range for a novel--157,000 words (I've now cut 57,000 words from the book!). I also rewrote my query after reading anaylses by two agents of hundreds of queries, and then I sent it out to a pretty big agency--and got a rejection from a rather small one.

Anyway, that done, the "stupor of thought" that was stopping me from writing my next book completely dissolved, and I got going with the goal to finish before the baby comes (very possible if I write 1000 words a day--and with the last book I wrote 4000 a day). It all went well for a minute, and then I froze up again. Realized later that night that I had made a mistake in the narrative, and I suspect if I fix it, the rest will flow.

It has been amazing to me that if I make a mistake or leave out some important detail, or write something that doesn't work, I can't write any more. And then if I go back and fix the problem, the words flow again. It's bizarre. Many times I've frozen up and couldn't think of a single thing to write and had to pray about what I'd done wrong in order to figure it out--sometimes the missing piece or the wrong part is not clearly wrong until many many pages later. But I've learned to just go with it. If I force myself to write through the block (common advice for writers), I just end up having to delete the junk later.

I have finally learned what Mom told me years ago--just go with what you feel like doing. If I don't feel like writing, I don't. I sort toys. Or read. Or play with the kids. Or stare at the wall. Or make something tasty. Or whatever. Doesn't do any good to force yourself to work--on the house or the book. It just makes for physical pain and stuff you have to redo later.

Writing has been a lesson in revelation for me. It works the same way, with the genuine joy and excitement when I'm doing it right, and the stupor of thought so that I can't even remember what I was going to say when I've done it wrong. And the slow, day-by-day coaching that is challenging but never too much to handle. And when I do what I feel, and pray daily for the next instructions, I feel happy in so many other areas of my life.

The question as I cut the most recent 5000 words was "Why didn't I just do it right in the first place?" And the answer was, obviously, that I've learned more about writing from having to cut a fourth of the book out than I ever would have learned from doing it right the first time. Besides, the learning happens on the journey, not at the destination.

And it's all about learning, isn't it?